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The Ringgold County Wellness Coalition partnered with Ringgold Outdoor Alliance (ROA) to establish a new community garden on the southwest corner of Monroe and Harrison Street in Mount Ayr. Their vision is to have a place that anyone in the community can come and enjoy fresh, healthy food.
This joint effort was spurred on by funding through a Healthiest State Initiative 5-2-1-0 grant, powered by Wellmark. Like many things this spring, Covid-19 derailed initial plans to create a healing garden at Ringgold County Hospital utilizing grant funds. The Wellness Coalition explored new outlets for the grant that would benefit the community. One of those ideas was to establish an additional community garden in a more central location.
Six years ago, the Wellness Coalition established the first community garden behind the First Lutheran Church south of Hwy 2 in Mount Ayr. While this garden has successfully produced, with the help of Mike and Vicki Sickels, its more remote location has made it difficult to attract volunteers and community members to enjoy the harvest. Establishing a new garden space located centrally in Mount Ayr would allow more people to take part and enjoy the benefits of gardening.
“We knew financial stress and potential food shortages were likely this year and thought another community garden could really help people out following the pandemic,” said Jennifer Kellner, Ringgold County Wellness Coalition Chair. The search for a good location was on. After reaching out to a few entities, Ringgold Outdoor Alliance offered a vacant lot right across from Heritage Park Apartments that had been gifted to their organization.
Support for the garden has been growing rapidly. With the grant money and some extra donations, four raised beds and six additional planter tubs have been installed. The garden space was used to plant green beans, carrots, peppers, tomatoes, and cilantro. In addition, a large area was tilled up and planted down to watermelons, honeydews, squash, and cucumbers. The World Tomato Society donated over 170 plants including heirloom tomatoes and a variety of peppers. “We were blown away that folks were as excited as we were to get this going,” said Kellner. “Thank you so much to all those that have donated dirt, seed, mulch, time, and their labor!”
Everyone is welcome to stop by and visit the garden anytime, do a little weeding, or enjoy the fresh pickings as the plants mature. Once everything starts producing, any fresh produce that has not been harvested by Sunday evening each week will be donated to the Neighborhood Center. Fresh produce will be stored in a cooler that was also purchased and provided through Wellmark 5-2-1-0 grant funding last summer.
The Ringgold County Wellness Coalition is committed to making the healthy choice the easy choice for everyone in our county. Any questions or volunteer inquiries can be directed to Jennifer Kellner at 515-402-1550 or Andy Kellner at 712-621-4227.